Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Life is more nifty when you're fifty

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Recently, the Brookings Institution's Carol Graham looked at the relationship between age and happiness around the world, as measured by the Gallup World Poll conducted from 2011 to 2013. Graham describes it as "a U-shaped curve, with the low point in happiness being at roughly age 40 around the world."

The takeaway? Once we've passed a certain point, "things get better as we age, as long as we are reasonably healthy (age-adjusted) and in a stable partnership."

Graham explains this relationship is fairly universal. It shows up across countries and across generations -- even among apes. But there's some bad news here for millennials: As if coming of age in the worst job market in modern times wasn't enough, statistically speaking, the worst is still ahead.

The happiness curve for the United States bottoms out at about age 47. This means that for the average 25-year-old, satisfaction with life will continually become worse for two decades before things finally start to turn around.

You think you're having a bad day today? Remember the immortal words of Homer Simpson: "This isn't the worst day of your life. This is only the worst day of your life so far."

But American millennials can be thankful they don't live in Russia.

In most countries, the happiness curve bottoms out somewhere around middle age -- 41 in Britain, for instance. This is usually long before the average person is expected to die, with one major exception: in Russia, the curve doesn't bottom out until age 91. Essentially, life under President Vladimir Putin is one continuous downward spiral into despair.

In the Better Life Index published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Russians rated their general life satisfaction as 3 out of 10. Three-quarters of Russians say they are "struggling" or "suffering," with only 25 per cent "thriving," according to their responses to a 2012 Gallup survey. Compare that with the United States, where life satisfaction is a robust 7.6 and nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed describe themselves as "thriving."

To sum up: In America, millennials can expect three full decades of rising happiness after they hit rock bottom.

In Russia, the only thing to look forward to is death's sweet embrace.

 

-- Washington Post-Bloomberg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2014 D4

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